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BI vendors make 'one-platform' push

Recent announcements and marketing messages have BI vendors declaring themselves the only "one-stop shop," but most of the market isn't ready for one platform.

Increasingly business intelligence vendors are positioning themselves as the sole provider for a company's BI needs.

One need only look at several recent announcements to see the push toward a consolidated platform.

Last month the Cary, N.C.-based SAS Institute Inc. launched its Beyond BI campaign, touting its SAS Enterprise Intelligence Platform. Also last month, Ottawa-based Cognos Inc. released its latest Performance Management System. And, not to be outdone, Hyperion Solutions Corp., of Santa Clara, Calif., went on a press tour previewing its plans for Project Avalanche, a one-stop shop for corporate data.

"Its mission is to deliver a single, new product to deliver all functionality across all data servers in one tool," said Hyperion's chief technology officer John Kopke. "Now, we realize we're not the only ones thinking about this, but our suite gives us a leg up."

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Historically, companies have made BI purchases by department, creating multiple systems that are difficult to integrate. Recent moves by vendors hope to help the consolidation process.

However, in the near term there doesn't seem to be a great demand for a single BI platform.

"There is certainly a push by the leading vendors to build out the platform, some from acquisition and some from development," said Dan Vesset, analyst with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "There is a portion of the market looking for broad, consolidated platforms. Maybe about a quarter of companies we've asked are looking to consolidate. The rest see it's unrealistic."

Marketing and rebranding lay at the heart of these recent consolidation initiatives, insists Mike Schiff, analyst with Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis.

In contrast to the database market, companies can have multiple BI systems and the prospect of one, and only one vendor, is a much tougher sell.

"It's not a winner takes all game," Schiff said. "BI tools can coexist and, if you're any good [as a vendor], you'll win more seats each year. A lot of them are concerned by pressures from database vendors like Oracle or Microsoft."

Hyperion's Project Avalanche is in beta this summer and will be generally available in the fall. It will be released in two phases; the first phase will provide an information consensus to the 80% of a company's BI users who access data through a Web browser or Microsoft Office tool, Kopke said. The second phase, to begin in 2006, will move to a single construction that the company is calling universal data access.

"It will be like Google, where I type in one thing and get a list of results I can understand," Kopke said. "If we can do that for the Internet, why can't we do that for a company?"

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